FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas built a double-digit lead in the second half, then held off a late charge to beat Clemson 74-68 in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.
The Razorbacks’ largest advantage — 16 points — came at the 14:09 mark. It wasn’t quite enough to put Clemson away. The Tigers outscored Arkansas 23-14 over the final 10 minutes, but the Razorbacks still secured their 19th straight home win.
“We had a comfortable lead, but the game is not over until it’s over,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “Credit to (Clemson coach) Brad (Brownell). He thought this was one of his better teams and it showed where the guys didn’t panic. But it was a good win for us against a good team.
“We got it up to double figures and kept it there for the most part until about six minutes left in the game, but then we got to a period, on a drought, where we couldn’t score.”
Arkansas (6-2) only made 20 of its 31 free-throw attempts. It included five missed free throws in the final 3:07, which helped keep Clemson (7-2) within reach.
“You’ve got to get to the basket and get to the free-throw line,” Anderson said. “We got to the free-throw line. We got there 31 times. And so we’ve got to capitalize on that. If we do that, we have a bigger cushion at the end of the game.”
Arkansas did capitalize on something else in the win, though.
The Razorbacks made 10 of its 21 3-point field goal attempts against a Clemson defense that crowded the paint with defenders. Arkansas made eight shots beyond the arc in the first half, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Alandise Harris to extend the lead to 40-32 at the break.
“It’s what they were giving us,” Anderson said. “Some were in transition, but some of them … Alandise hits one going right in at halftime, which was big for momentum, I thought. It put us up eight. But that’s what they were giving us.
“Clemson’s defense, they pack it in there. And they want to make you shoot jump shoots, so fortunately we were making some (Saturday).”
Five Razorbacks made 3-pointers and Arkansas had three scorers in double figures. Sophomore Michael Qualls led the team with 17 points. Junior Rashad Madden scored 14 points and freshman Bobby Portis added 13.
Madden was one point shy of tying his career-high, which came Nov. 26, 2011, when he scored 15 points against Grambling State during his fifth game as a Razorback.
“Ky continues to play well for us,” Anderson said. “He made shots and they did a good job of covering, let’s say Anthlon (Bell) or Kikko (Haydar). They covered those guys pretty good.”
Clemson came into Saturday’s game sporting the nation’s top scoring defense, allowing just 51 points a game. But Arkansas scored 52 in just over 25 minutes against the Tigers, who became just the second team from the Atlantic Coast Conference to play the Razorbacks in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas’ 74 points is the most Clemson has allowed this season.
The Tigers allowed 62 in their only other loss to Massachusetts.
“We knew this game wasn’t going to be played in the 50s,” Brownell said. “That’s fine. We were content to play it about where it was. We tried to run when we had numbers and if we broke the press and could get a shot that we liked we’d take it. We certainly didn’t want to get in a track meet with them.”
Clemson out-rebounded Arkansas 45-30 and pulled down 19 offensive boards. But the Razorbacks outscored Clemson 15-14 on second-chance points.
“Some of that is misleading,” Brownell said. “Even though we’ve got 19 offensive rebounds and they only have 8. I don’t want to say it’s misleading, but we’re not at a stage with our young post players that are maybe ready to score those balls.”
While the Razorbacks struggled on the glass and Anderson said the team needed to improve in that area, he also credited the way his defense contested shots.
“Our big guys are making it difficult for other guys to shoot,” Anderson said. “When it gets physical like that, we have to go up and get rebounds and really make them get back on defense.
“We had balls in our hands. They were sending, like, four guys to the glass. If we get that initial rebound, it should be dunk city at the other end. We have to get other guys to rebound.”
Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels led the Tigers with 27 points and 11 rebounds. The junior also had two blocks and a steal.
McDaniels went to high school with Arkansas forward Jacorey Williams at Central Park High School in Birmingham, Ala.
“He’s athletic,” Qualls said of McDaniels. “He got to the rim tonight. He’s a great player. He tried to lead his team, but we neutralized that.”
Arkansas returns to the action against Savannah State on Thursday at 7 p.m.